Trey’s Hike Along the Camino de Santiago, Part 1: Kevin Kelly

Introduction

Here is the short story of my 150-kilometer trek from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Over 200,000 people hike each year on this pilgrimage. In the olden days when people were still stoned, this used to be a Christian pilgrimage to visit the grisly bones of Saint James. Nowadays many people make the hike and it’s no longer purely religious, although many people are still stoned.

Either way, it’s certainly a spiritual journey.

In terms of religious hikes, it doesn’t really compare in numbers to that of Mecca, where 15 million people walk each year. That walk mostly originates from Jeddah and clocks in at around 70 km. Either way, this epic Santiago hike I did has multiple routes. The full route is over 1200 km from France or a lighter version from Portugal at around 200 km. Mine was just 150 because we started right at the border in Tui, Spain. It’s also shorter because we are all kinda lazy and get the point after 150km.

I’ve decided to tell a multi-part story via conversations I had with my nine other walkers. This event was put together by Kevin Kelly and Craig Mod who have completed a few of these sorts of walks around the world. The idea is a bit of a “Walk n’ Talk” where we mostly philosophize about the world, make jokes, and engage in a stimulating amount of mutual mental masturbation. Everyone on this adventure was from different walks of life. We had everything from tech magnates to authors to photographers to entrepreneurs to DNA researchers, and well, you name it.

It was great, for me personally, to establish deep connections with each and every member of our hiking tribe. At least, I think I did! 🙂

Below is one of many 360 videos (link to subscribe to my YouTube channel) I made while on this hike. I’ll post them a bit out of order. I talked to Kevin about several disparate topics in different videos including AI, an enormous underground clock he is working on that lasts 10,000 years, a series of bottom-up libraries that are being built in a Nevada desert, Burning Man, and last, something that sounds a bit macabre: Death.

You can click the gear to amp it up to 4K. In this 360 video, I am walking with both Kevin Kelly and Hugh Howey. We talk about rituals, in particular, a special ritual he invented for his kids when they turned 21. After that, we talk about death, and our nefarious plans to split up Kevin’s body as a new idea for a death ritual to honor him. It all sounds a bit dour, but it certainly isn’t.   NOTE: If you have not seen a 360 video before, you can grab the screen and look in any direction you want!

By the way, I know a lot of geeks like me watch this, and you may want to know what equipment I use. Here are the kit links for my Insta 360 camera and the Zoom h1n recorder use for audio – also follow this link to see all my gear.

The overall idea was that we spend most of the day discussing philosophy, science, and other erudite matters. Each night at dinner we had a different discussion. World governance, urbanization, religion, and relationships just to name a few. We would record about three hours of these blatherings and they’re putting together all the transcripts now.

Anyway, that was the texture of the seven-day hike. I’ll get started with an overall paintbrush stroke of the trip then get into Story #1 with Kevin Kelly. In the next one, I’ll talk about my discussions with Hugh Howey, whom you may recognize as the author of Wool and the Silo series of books. I’m starting with those two because I knew a lot about them either in person or via their work before the trip. After, that, I’ll share stories from some of the other ne’er-do-wells that joined us.

We started on the edge of Portugal, and you’ll see a bridge below that links northern Portugal and Spain.

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This was a nice little surprise to find this bridge that connected the two countries. Strangely, even though we walked directly north after you touch the Spanish soil, you have to set your clocks back one hour.

This mini-bridge walk was technically before the whole hike even started after our motley crew assembled for an introductory dinner.

After dinner, I walked across this bridge around midnight with Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and current CEO of Automattic. In a short time, we talked about a bit of everything from him changing my life by founding WordPress (my blog at www.StuckInCustoms.com) to doing recreational drugs at Burning Man. But I’ll save more of that for the Matt Mullenweg story day!

It was sort of unusual being thrown into a group of ten people who you don’t really know. I remember one of our fellow walkers, Chris Barclay said on the final night that he felt a bit intimidated in the beginning. You know, trying to figure out who the cool kids were and trying not to make a fool of one’s self. That’s a universal feeling everyone has when entering a new group. As we paired off in organic one-on-one situations, as I did on this first night with Matt, everyone could see there was nothing to worry about and this was a very cool, non-judgmental group. In a very short time, all that self-doubt disappeared like fog in the morning.

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Many mornings laid a cool moist blanket of fog on us.  Each day was usually 8-11 hours of hiking, and we wanted to get the bulk of it done before that brutal 2-4PM Spanish sun started to drill into us. Now I know why all Spaniards take a siesta between 2 and 4!

Above you see one of our typical mornings. We would often pair-up, but not always, and talk about a wide myriad of subjects. It made the countless hours of walking go by extremely quickly. I was so busy listening to other people that I barely even realized that 20km had already flown by.

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And here was our final destination at the mighty cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Not to skip ahead to the END of the story, but the photo above is where the journey ended 150km later, in Santiago de Compostela. The town itself was beautiful and the energy was palpable. I think, because so many people reach here every year in such a euphoric state, that it suffuses the town with positivity.

And here’s our awesome hiking group!

I’ll talk more about little things along the adventure here and there as I talk about each individual person… but, first, let’s start with the guy that invited me, and one of my only intellectual heroes: Kevin Kelly!

Part One: Walking & Talking with Kevin Kelly

I was glad to see that Kevin didn’t have ALL the answers to the universe. But he seemed to have most of them.

I only have a handful of heroes, and not many are alive! You all may have already read my story about another living hero, Hans Zimmer, but now this is my story of Kevin Kelly.

Kevin is best described (if possible) as a philosopher that ties together technology, history, and futurism into a central theme of optimism.

When I saw his first TED talk (now he has about four), it had a tremendous impact on how I approached life, the blog, my work, photography, and more. Even though Kevin himself is an accomplished photographer with countless crazy stories about traveling all around the east, most of the information he synthesizes is from a plethora of other subjects.

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All pilgrims on the trail wear one of these special scallop shells. It indicates to everyone in the region that you are on the Camino walk. People will go out of their way to help you when they see this special symbol.

What exactly did Kevin affect during my “formative blog years”? Even though he didn’t specifically speak to this, it confirmed my instincts to make almost everything free. I would upload full-rez photos every day to the blog. I would not use watermarks. I used Creative Commons Noncommercial as a means to drive traffic back to the site. I gave 110% to the very few early fans that seemed to enjoy the work. Kevin has a great essay called 1,000 true fans that really resonated with me very early in my arc.

I went on to read his books and watch more tech talks. He has a wonderful take on “What Technology Wants” and he sort of frames it in the way that tech, itself, grows in a not dissimilar path to other genus/species. Here is one of his TED talks about what technology wants.


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While passing by some vineyards near Portugal, a very nice lady came out and gave us more of the sweetest grapes than we could ever eat.

I first met Kevin about seven years ago when Thomas Hawk and I did that mammoth ~500 person photo walk in San Francisco. Kevin came up to introduce himself to me. I was like, “WHHAAAAAT! Kevin you don’t need to introduce yourself! I’m a mega fan!” And I was. I was just about as close as one can get to being a stalker without crossing the creepy line.

Since that time, we’ve been together on many occasions. We met in San Francisco and he even invited me over to his home in Pacifica, a Valhalla of sorts for me. That is when I first met his wife Gia-Miin, who also joined us on this walk.

Hugh Howey and Kevin Kelly taking a break on the walk

Last year he invited me to go eagle hunting in Mongolia with Tim Ferriss. I wanted to go, but it was right after Burning Man, and my wife would have killed me for being gone so long. So this year, when he invited me on the Santiago hike, I agreed! I had no idea what I was getting into, but I generally say yes to adventures then figure everything out later.

On occasion, we would go on ancient stone pathways and you could still see where the wagon wheels had carved a rut.

The whole week was such a treat for me and I was honored to hang out with Kevin. I felt like a little kid around him, asking 1,000 questions. I was trying not to be annoying… well, at least that was my goal. By the way, I am not really an “interviewer” or anything. I’m just a curious guy.

I came up with this plan to ask Kevin a different question every day and record it. I wrote down six questions beforehand, but I changed most of them as the week went on. For example, I never thought about talking to him about death until I was having a one-on-one with Hugh Howey and we came up with an idea on how to divvy up Kelly upon his exit from the mortal coil. It was of course influenced by this stimulating walk he encouraged all of us to undertake. All that talk began as a side-conversation after Hugh told me he planned on killing himself at 40. That’s another video I’ll post. I mean, the video of the discussion, not the actual suicide.

After I got to know the other walkers, I decided to take this idea to many of them too. So now I have many of these 360 videos with most of the walkers. Time and data didn’t allow me to record all 100+ hours of our time together, so I kind of picked randomly. Once again, Kevin inspires me intentionally or unintentionally to try new things and just be authentic in your awkwardness. I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I can tell that Kevin is an introvert, like so many of us. This comes across in his speaking style, a style that is uniquely his own. He’s so authentic and real that he both believable and endearing. I am sure this comes with something else he encompasses, being comfortable in his own skin. So many people aren’t, and he also got me started on that path about ten years ago.

One thing we share in common is that we have spent a tremendous amount of time in the east (China, SE Asia, Japan etc) with local cultures and taking photos. It’s made us both very attentive and present, I believe. When you’re talking to him and vice-versa, it’s like you’re the only two people in the world. I’m lucky I didn’t fall into a river or fall off a cliff while we were talking because it was so engrossing. He’s adopted somewhat of an eastern philosophy that seems to inform all of his thoughts and actions.

It’s impossible to summarize our 20+ hours of one-on-one conversations. Impossible. But you’ll see a few highlights as we release videos.

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After a while, Kevin and I finally found the Internet.

I think his books and TED talks have influenced me so much that sometimes I don’t know where he begins and my brain ends. We were making obscure references to books, authors, tech, etc… at some point, I mentioned one of my favorite quotes. I asked him if it was Feynman that said it, and Kevin said, “Wait a minute, I said that!” I was laughing so much and apologized… I’m getting old.

See more of Kevin’s quotes here

Along the way, after we stopped in a town for the afternoon, Kevin and I went off on our own little adventure to record an episode of his “Cool Tools” podcast. He interviewed me then we walked around the park a bit after the recording. He turned to me and said something nice. “Trey, you surprise me!” I didn’t know what to say.

Here is one of the beautiful places we stayed along the walk. It was a family’s old farmhouse and our group was pretty much the only people in there!

One thing that I’ve noticed about Kevin that is not initially expected is how silly he is. He laughs a lot and says funny things. He is also very quick to laugh at jokes the rest of us make. It’s a wonderful thing because so many intellectuals can be so boring and self-serious.

My degree was in Computer Science and Math, so I’ve always been interested in tech and the future. This is a very strange time with the acceleration of everything from AI to Robots. I try to figure out where it’s going, but I get a lot of guidance (and optimism) from Kevin’s bullish outlook on these matters. See more about what he thinks about the future of AI in his TED Talk on AI or his latest book The Inevitable.

Of course, another typical question that comes up among geeks is: “Are we living in a simulation?” This question has been officially banned from Elon Musk’s hot tub conversations (for real) because Musk sees it as a “circular argument”. Kevin is a bit more practical with it, indicating it doesn’t really matter. He says the important thing is that we have a tangible effect on everything and everyone around us. That’s a pretty cool stance and helps get the mind out of that circular argument.

Kevin holds an umbrella over Gia-Miin to protect her from the hot Spanish sun.

Kevin’s super-IQ wife joined us on the walk too, Gia-Miin. She was the only female on the walk, so she was able to keep things fairly classy. You don’t want 10 guys together for a long period of time or else it can spiral down to nonstop tales of ribaldry. Anyway, Gia-Miin works at 23 and Me as a genetics researcher in the cancer area. She told me all about it one afternoon. I could immediately tell I was out of my depth when we started comparing the progress of genetic therapy and whether that would outpace tech innovation when it actually comes to helping humans get better. But they’re doing all sorts of amazing things over there, and it looks like they are going to figure out a lot of the “bad code” that makes humans have bugs.

Kevin and Gia-Miin have a really interesting origin story to their relationship. I won’t tell the long version, but it really seems to work and they are best friends. How wonderful! I know their daughter Ting from a few times when we have been at the E.G. Conference together. I need to send her a note that says, “Hey, Ting, you know… your parents are kinda weird.” I can’t wait to see her response. But, of course, I mean weird in the best possible way.

I’ll end the story of Kevin on the final night’s dinner after we all finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela. We again had a round-table discussion. At the end of dinner, everyone was a little bit teary. Kevin turned his chair to me as we were all getting up to leave. He put his hand on my knee and said, again, smiling “Trey, you know, you really surprise me.” Even getting more teary-eyed, I playfully pushed at his shoulder. “Hey man, that’s what friends do. They surprise each other.”

Here’s a photo that was taken by Craig Mod on the final hiking day of around 30 kilometers as we approached our goal.

Exploring Gaudi’s Masterpiece

A new workflow for RAW Photos

Today’s video just for Passport Members shows a slightly improved workflow for RAW photos. I’m always tweaking my workflow this way and that, and this seems to work out pretty well!

I used to just take the RAW file and drag it into Aurora. I still sometimes do that, but I find that I like making just a few tweaks in Lightroom first. You can see how in the video below!

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Daily Photo – Exploring Gaudi's Masterpiece

The first time I came to the Sagrada Familia here in Barcelona, I didn't go inside. There is a ton of construction going on, and I didn't even realize you could pay to get inside. And I would not have thought it would look so bright and colorful on the inside because the outside is very dark and gothic. It's too bad Gaudi didn't stay alive long enough to see it completed!

Exploring Gaudi's Masterpiece

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-30 08:23:27
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time4
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Selling Cars in the Barcelona Airport

Thanks again Barcelona!

We had such a great time there during our European tour. We stayed there at the fab Barcelona Arts Hotel and that’s also where I gave my little art talk on the top floor after the photo walk. Speaking of that photo walk, here is the highlight video from the event!

Daily Photo – Selling Cars in the Barcelona Airport

I think this might be the most reflective airport in the world! I took a lot of photos when I was there, but now I wish I had taken a lot more. I don't know much about flooring, but the effect was so amazing that I wish there were more floors like this in other airports, shopping malls, etc. It might even be cool in a few rooms in your home. I assume it's quite durable; I think it might have been a white marble. If you ever find yourself here, to maximize the reflection in your photo, be sure to get as close to the ground as possible.

Selling Cars in the Barcelona Airport

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2010-09-26 07:21:50
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/15
  • Aperture6.7
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

A Sunset in Ibiza

New How-To video Hot Tip for Sunrays!

Here’s a new video I made that shows how I used the new sunrays filter in Luminar to make the sun look so awesome. It’s a really fun trick. I used to do this sometimes in Photoshop, but that is very time consuming. One of my favorite things about this filter is how you can make so many adjustments and even randomize the sun rays.

Daily Photo – A Sunset in Ibiza

A Sunset in Ibiza

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2010-09-24 17:34:22
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/45
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+1

A Cathedral in the Clouds Surrounded by an Amusement Park

A Tibidabo Double-Play!

Today I’m showing two photos of the same place near Barcelona. It’s a beautiful cathedral called Tibidabo.

Daily Photo – A Cathedral in the Clouds Surrounded by an Amusement Park

So I like this second photo better. I obviously heavily processed it with one of my Lightroom Presets. I believe it was one of my “Sandstorm” ones from Burning Man. I think this place is beautiful, but I can't figure out why they put an amusement park up there. It makes it all a bit garish, I think. Even in this photo, you can see part of a rollercoaster in the lower right. Oh, this second photo was taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro.

A Cathedral in the Clouds Surrounded by an Amusement Park

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-30 19:59:57
  • CameraFC6310
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/240
  • Aperture5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length8.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

Barcelona At Night

Thinking of being a digital Nomad?

I am! Well, sort of. Yeah, I guess I am. This basically means you are kind of homeless and just jump around the world in search of awesome places to “be” while having a decent place to stay, great food, and, maybe most importantly, Fast Internet! If you’re looking to try this, check out Nomad List. You’ll see today’s Daily Photo location of Barcelona up there at #2 on the list! 🙂

Daily Photo – Barcelona At Night

What a pretty city, eh? I was happy to be in good health this time in Barcelona. My first visit was about 5 years ago with my wife and I had the flu. Even though I was very excited to be there and take photos, I was just kinda low-energy-man. That's not like me! I'm normally full of vim and vigor. So, when I'm low-energy-man, I'm like a different person. But not this time, this time I was well-rested and ready to go!

Barcelona At Night

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-29 20:02:18
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/4
  • Aperture3.2
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length90.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Ritz-Carlton Article

Here’s an article entitled Traveling in a Blue State of Mind where they used all my photos to tell some nice stories. The Ritz-Carlton recently re-did their “color” to a special type of blue that happened to coincide with a lot of my photos!

Daily Photo – Inside the Sagrada Familia

Here's a view of the light streaming through the stained glass windows. And just think, it was a rainy day! Imagine how amazing the light would be if it was sunny outside. I think this place will be under construction for the next 20 years or so… I look forward to coming back after that on a sunny day to take more photos. Lord only knows what kind of camera I'll be using then!

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-30 08:38:35
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time8
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Tane in La Sagrada Familia

Tip from Sagrada Familia

There is a bonus Passport Video below that I filmed from the place where the Pope sits when he visits. Note that if you get a media pass ahead of time, someone will guide you up to this secret area to get some photos. To me, it’s some of the best perspectives of this place.

Thoughts on symmetry and more for you today! By the way, if you’re enjoying the Passport, why not get a friend or two to sign up! I don’t really do advertising around here, so I’m depending on word-of-mouth! 🙂

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Daily Photo – Tane in La Sagrada Familia

Tane spends a lot of time rubbing his young fingers all over his phone. As long as he was doing that here inside one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, I thought I would take his photo while the world moved on around him! 🙂 Note that all these colors are real, formed by the multicolored stained glass windows that illuminated the ceiling. I was actually here on a rainy day, so I imagine on a sunny day, it's even more vibrant.

Tane in La Sagrada Familia

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-30 08:41:21
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time16
  • Aperture11
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Soaring over Tibidabo

New Luminar Presets!

I made some new presets for Luminar! Grab them here now.

And here’s a little how-to video that mentions them! 🙂 Enjoy.

Mavic vs. Phantom

I was up here with my friend Hans Mast and he had his Mavic. I had the Phantom 4 Pro and we decided to fly them together. It was Super windy and Gusty and I was 100% sure that my bigger, heavier, stronger Phantom would stand up better to the wind. Well, I could not have been more wrong! Hans’ little Mavic did just as well as mine and the video was perfectly smooth… man those guys at DJI know their stuff!

Daily Photo – Soaring over Tibidabo

We didn't make it here until our final night in Barcelona. Even though it was the middle of summer, it was a chilly and very windy night up here. There's one very strange thing about this place: there's an amusement park all around this old church. And it's a strange amusement park too. It's kind of cheapo and reminds me of a run-down Chinese amusement park from the 60's. The kids seemed to enjoy it though… that's all that matters.

Soaring over Tibidabo

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-30 20:02:34
  • CameraFC6310
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/240
  • Aperture5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length8.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

4 Tips for Taking Surprising Mobile Photos

It doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone or an Android there are a few things you can do to get your mobile photography to the next level. All of the photos included with the tips were taken with my Google Pixel phone. I normally shoot with a big Hasselblad camera, but sometimes all I have with me is my phone. I’ve come up with some great tricks to make them look as surprising and incredible as possible.

1) Don’t hit that big circle on the screen to take the photo. Use the Vol Up button on the side! One, when you jab the screen with your finger, you’re causing camera-shake and it will make your photo more blurry. Two, using the volume up button allows you to hold the camera much more steady with one or two hands.

Image 1

This was taken an underground Turkish bath in Budapest, Hungary. This is Olya, my crazy Russian videographer, who traveled through Europe with us to make some inspirational and tutorial videos.

2) Experiment with the mobile app Snapseed! It’s free and available for Android and iOS. This is, by far, the best app for editing your photos on your phone. There are many tools in there and many different filters. One great thing about Snapseed is you can layer many different filters together to really give your photo a unique look. People will wonder how you did it!

Image 2

Here’s a fun family photo from a few months ago when we rode camels near the pyramids in Egypt. I used Snapseed filters to give it this “look.”

3) Take some cheeky street photos. If you’re like me, as you walk around the streets, you often see interesting people, crazy outfits, or just kooky things you find interesting. It can sometimes be embarrassing to blatantly aim your phone at these things, so get used to using the Volume Up button to take the photos. On the Pixel phone, for example, I can turn on the camera by double-clicking the power button. Then I move my finger to volume-up to take the photo. Your horizon will probably be off, but you can fix that later.

Image 3

Here’s a cheeky street photo I took in Budapest, Hungary. This is my assistant Tane. He’s not posing; this is literally how he looks all the time.

4) Try combining your phone with an iPad or tablet to edit your photos to the next level. Professional photographers know that a photo reads differently on a larger screen. Next time you’re at a coffee shop, why not zap your photo over to your tablet (via Google Photos or Airdrop), then use Snapseed to edit it there. A good photo always looks better bigger on a tablet, so don’t feel like you’re forced to use that tiny little screen.

Image 4

This a photo I took in Aruba. I was jogging on the beach, and of course I had my mobile phone with me. I was able to cover a lot of ground quickly, and there’s no way I would go on a jog and carry a Hasselblad! But it’s nice to always have the phone with me and take a ton of photos, picking out the best after I sit down to relax.

Image 5

Near my home on the south island of New Zealand, there is this amazing place to watch the sunset called Lake Hayes. I forgot my big Hasselblad camera, so all I had was my phone. There’s a saying that the Best Camera is the one you have with you!

Image 6

Here’s a panorama of three different photos I took while on a walk here near my home in New Zealand. Since I have an Android, I use Google photos. One great thing about Google Photos is there’s a little AI assistant that will “gift” you a panorama if it senses you took a lot of photos close together.

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